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Carbon calculators: Some good advice

Posted by: Adam Aston on January 16, 2008

Check out which debuted in time for the FTC summit that my colleague Heather Green blogged about last week. Run by EnviroMedia Social Marketing in partnership with the advertising faculty of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC), the online forum aims to help consumers to judge the green claims made by major advertisers.

A recent exercise by Consumer illuminates the dizzying uncertainty consumers face in trying to neutralize their carbon output. The consumer advocacy tried out 11 online calculators to offset the greenhouse gases for a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The carbon calculators delivered estimates ranging from a low of 1,924 lbs of CO2 (from to 6,732 lbs (from Bonneville Environmental Foundation). The cost of offsetting this much carbon, naturally, varies practically as much, depending on the the way in which the carbon is negated. Till the FTC weighs in consumers don’t have many alternatives. CR advises: “It makes sense to know how each calculator does the math. Generally, the more explanation it gives and the more info you’re asked to input, the better. To learn more, go to, a Web site from Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.”

In related news: I caught up with Evolution Market’s Evan Ard, who was at the FTC meeting. Evolution Markets is a pioneer in trading pollution credits, renewable energy credits (RECs), and other environmental derivatives. Evan was on hand to hear how the FTC’s inquiry was shaping up. He relates that he was surprised by the number of attendees in the meeting room, thick with representatives from offset services providers. Vendors of voluntary RECs are especially anxious for the FTC to make strong rules, Ard explained, to help reverse rising consumer skepticism over the validity of buying offsets to cover carbon released from air travel, car drives, and consumer activities. For this market to prosper, consumers and vendors alike want reliable rules.



BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.

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